Old Testament style 

Prophets Today?

The idea of prophets today is quite a contentious subject

Prophets fit into 3 categories: Old Covenant Prophets, New Covenant prophets and false prophets. In other words, there are Prophets with a capital ‘P’ and prophets with a lower-case ‘p’. 

If God had planned that there should be no more prophecy in the New Covenant period, then he wouldn't have warned us to be discerning and to only hold onto the good prophecies. There would be no need for discernment if there is no prophecy to discern, and no need to be careful either, because if there were only false prophets they would be obvious they would be the only ones prophesying. I sometimes hear people say that prophecy has finished, this is not valid. The Bible tells us when prophecy will end, and that is when Jesus returns and we see him face to face. 

The Old Covenant Prophets were mediators between God and man and they operated under strict rules and carried enormous responsibility. The responsibility was so great that Moses, as leader of the Israelites, asked God if he could step down from being a Prophet as he feared the necessary close contact with God would kill him. God agreed to choose other men whose only responsibility was to be Prophets.

Old Covenant Prophets

  1. They had to pass on God’s words and be completely accurate in what they said or they faced judgement at God’s hands.
  2. They must not add nor take away anything from the prophecies God gave to them at the penalty of death and they had to pass on God’s words, whether they liked them or not.
  3. The nation had to obey the Prophet completely and without question, or else they faced God’s judgement too as they stepped outside of God’s protection.

These were the conditions that a Prophet operated under in the Old Covenant.

These conditions do not exist any more, because effectively, the ground rules changed completely with the arrival of the New Covenant.

Deut. 18 v 15-22 Shows the introduction and rules of Old Testament Prophets  

'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’

 And the Lord said to me:‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 

Heb 8 v 13.

‘In that He says, “a new covenant” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.’ 

Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Covenant to introduce a wonderful and liberating new relationship with God for all who’ll believe in Him.

Under the New Covenant, Jesus himself takes on the roles of 

High Priest, Mediator and Prophet. (Capital ‘P’)

Heb 9 v 11

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is not of this creation.

So there is not an earthly figurehead in the New Covenant.

1 Tim 2 v 5

For there is one God and one mediator between God and Men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all…’

So a New Covenant prophet is not a mediator, Jesus alone is the mediator between God and man.

Heb 1 v 1-2 We see Jesus as Prophet

‘God who at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to our fathers by the Prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things…’

It’s very clear that the role of the Old Covenant Prophet is now redundant; it doesn’t fit into the New Covenant at all, especially as Jesus himself has taken on the roles of High Priest, Mediator and Prophet.

I’m not saying that there is no longer prophecy, but in the light of the New Covenant revelation we must reconsider our definition of what prophecy is (with a small ‘p’). The idea of a super-powerful person who must be obeyed, who leads nations or churches and has the authority to present all his prophecies with phrases like ‘Thus saith the Lord’ doesn’t exist any more!

Today, Jesus can speak to us all through the Holy Spirit.

Pride has created a culture where people today call themselves Prophets and see themselves as Old Testament style Prophets. These people do not practice humility or stay in submission to their leaders as described in the New Testament. This error has also produced a reactive movement of leaders who simply can’t cope with discerning spiritual gifts, so they deny them altogether.  

John 16 v 12-14 

'I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.'

Sometimes we need to pass on what Jesus has said to us; this is prophecy. However, it’s prophecy that needs to be passed on submissively, so that it can be weighed and tested to make sure it’s really from God and not just our own imagination or worse still, the inspiration of Satan. This is not about the status of a prophet, it’s about looking for the truth through discernment.

So, what is prophecy today?

Read Cor 14 v 29-32

 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets

Verse 29 shows that the words of the person prophesying are to be judged by others. This is far removed from the Old Covenant way, where the Prophets words had to be accepted without question. In verses 29 to 33 we see that the church leaders have authority over people who prophesy, they can be told to be quiet and even be interrupted! Under the New Covenant, people who prophesy can also be told that they’re wrong! If you start a prophecy with words like ‘God says’ you’re claiming your prophecy is right. So, if it’s wrong it’s a very serious error. Recognise a true prophecy by the humility of the giver. 

If you submit a prophecy to be tested, then you are only asking the question ‘is this right?’ You can be told that you’re wrong, and you’ve not sinned. It is clearly better to submit a prophecy before a meeting than to cause disorder by passing on perhaps your own ideas and then have to be corrected publicly. Great wisdom and love is needed in the use of prophecy and who it’s really meant for is very important. I would submit to you that a warning prophecy can be very encouraging, especially if it stops someone from falling into a hole. The leaders of the church have the responsibility for whether the prophecy is passed on to others. In practical terms there is nothing wrong with a response from the leaders saying ‘We’re not sure about this prophecy’, this is honesty, in which case you just have to be prepared to put it down. You have done your duty before God in submitting it! We are not playing games, this is important stuff, and it’s about finding the truth! 

The New covenant is not a charter that sets us free to say whatever we want. There are safe-guards and we must all be humble enough to use them. See 'Spiritual Gifts Today? on this website.

If a person prophesying gets it wrong when they’ve said publicly that their prophecy is from God (thus saith the Lord), then they’re a false prophet! 

Many so-called prophets today do not have anyone that they're accountable to and they SHOULD. 

In the Old Covenant, only the Prophet had the Holy Spirit on him, and that was just for when he was hearing from God.

In the New Covenant, if we are believers, both the person prophesying and also the hearers have the Holy Spirit living in them all the time, so both have a responsibility to test prophecy. 

There are thousands of people around today who claim to be ‘Prophets’, they want the power and authority the word ‘Prophet’ evokes, many people believe in these prophets because they misunderstand what prophecy is today. The person who prophesies should be under the authority of, and accountable to, the church.

If someone prophesies over you, don’t just blindly accept it, you should write it down immediately and accurately and take it to the elders of your church and ask them what they think, before you accept it or apply it to your life in any way.



1 John 4 says:

‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the World.’

Heb 4 v 12

‘For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’

The Bible is the benchmark against which all prophecy must be tested. Today, many people are being misled because they’re told that we can move on from the Bible, now that we have ‘what God is saying today’  . 

1 Peter 1 v 25 says ‘The word of the Lord endures forever.’ It has certainly not become obsolete, and if we think we can move on from the Bible, we no longer have anything against which we can test prophecy. We are lost and we will not know what is the truth. 

The disciples were alive during the introduction of the 'New Covenant' so they had the status of Prophets and Apostles (capital P and A) and they had direct and physical contact with Jesus. They wrote the inspired Scriptures, and were described as the foundation stones on which the church would be built. We all need to make ourselves accountable to someone, especially leaders.

Some people believe that the finished collection of the Biblical writings that we have today, is the perfect thing that had to arrive before prophecy could cease. 

Yet Paul himself, in spite of the profound revelations that he received directly from Jesus during his three years in the Arabian desert, (see Gal 1) and the revelation that he could not pass on to us, (see Cor 12:2) was still aware that he only understood in part, that he was looking through a glass darkly. Paul longed for the day when the perfect Jesus would return and he would be able to see the whole picture clearly, to fully understand all the treasures of divine wisdom, of knowledge and enlightenment that are stored up and lie hidden in Christ (Col.2:3). This is the perfection that must come before prophecy can cease.

We must be humble enough to admit this too, and not think that we know it all.

We know in part, and we prophecy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1Cor 13:9-10)

When will this happen? It will be when this present age is finished and Jesus returns. (1Cor 13:12).

In order to fulfil God’s purposes even today we need the Bible AND we need the Holy Spirit to speak to us, guide and give us instructions.

We must not put God in a box and tell him that he mustn’t speak any more.                  

Personally I’ve heard God's voice giving me very detailed instructions about something that he wanted me to do, it frightened me actually, but obedience to his spoken words resulted in great blessing and salvation for someone. (See article 'Hearing from God on this website).'

1 Thess 5 v 19

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.

We must be careful that our desire to hear or give prophecy is not motivated by a worldly fascination or hunger to know the future. It is this weakness that’s encouraging false diviner-prophets to appear on the ‘Christian’ scene. An unhealthy appetite to know the future is a sign of insecurity and lack of trust in God and His written Word.

Martyn Cunnington

Bold emphasis in quotations is mine.


© Martyn Cunnington revised 2021